In a positive sentence, "either . . .or" is sometimes used to express an exclusive disjunction.

However, what happens when “either” is used in negation, as in sentence two below? Is the meaning the same as in sentence one?

1: John is not in the kitchen or the bedroom.

This sentence indicates that John is not in the kitchen and John is not in the bedroom.

2: John is not in either the kitchen or the bedroom.

This sentence indicates what?

  • Sentence 2 does not make sense. You already know that someone can't be in two places at once, so of course he is not in the kitchen, or not in the bedroom. That goes without saying.
    – Mr Lister
    Feb 12 '13 at 7:42
  • 3
    By the way, sentence one can be rewritten with "neither" ... "nor".
    – Mr Lister
    Feb 12 '13 at 7:43
  • Related english.stackexchange.com/questions/13889/…
    – user19148
    Feb 12 '13 at 7:52
  • @MrLister It does make sense - you could say "John is not in either the kitchen or the bedroom. He is in the bathroom". Feb 12 '13 at 11:09
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    Logically, either is just another form of or; its use is irrelevant in logic and is ignored. Syntactically, it's a phrase marker denoting the first of a series of disjuncts, which is most likely to be of length 2. Finally, NOT (A OR B) is equivalent to (NOT A) AND (NOT B) by De Morgan's Laws. Feb 12 '13 at 14:50

Sentence 2 means the same as Sentence 1, it's just a clumsier, more long-winded way of putting it. The use of 'either' etc. is somewhat redundant, but still technically valid. As Mr Lister points out 'neither' ... 'nor' could be used, and would be more common.

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